It was one of those stories Luke delighted in as he put together his portrait of Jesus, a story that highlighted Jesus’ attitude toward and relationship with women. As Jesus traveled around the countryside, he came to a certain village in which two sisters lived: Mary and Martha. Jesus went to their home to share a meal with them. Mary and Martha responded to the visit of the Master in contrasting ways.

Mary was so thrilled Jesus was there that she wanted to spend every moment with him. The Bible says she “was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at his feet” (Lk. 10:39). Martha, on the other hand, felt that everything had to be just right to host this important visitor. The Bible says she “was distracted with all her preparations” (10:40).

Here is the picture. Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him. Martha is in the kitchen making the biscuits. So Martha gets mad. She storms into the room where Jesus and Mary are talking and with obvious irritation says to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me” (10:40).

Which is the right approach? What did Jesus say? Jesus responded to Martha’s frantic call for help with a gentle reprimand: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (10:41-42). Jesus sided with Mary.

Today, more of us would probably side with Martha than with Mary. After all, dinner has to be cooked and the table has to be set and the dishes have to be washed. Somebody has to do these things. Yet, Jesus praised Mary. Why? Because she recognized that which is the priority and that which is permanent. So what is the PRIORITY for a Christian leader? Spending time with Jesus so that we can get to know him more intimately. And what is PERMANENT in the life of a Christian leader? The relationship with Jesus Christ.

Does this mean we should all sit around with our heads in the clouds hoping to latch onto a new experience with Jesus? No. That’s not the point. The point is that in the midst of our activity for Christ we need to make sure we spend time with Christ.

Here is the Martha approach:

  • Activity for Jesus

  • Focus on results

  • Personal exertion

  • Work

Since Jesus implied that Mary’s approach is better, let’s look a little more extensively at the Mary approach.

  • Attention to Jesus: Do you have time each day when your turn your attention to Jesus? In prayer. In Bible study. In meditation.

  • Focus on relationships: What are the most important relationships in your life? What specifically are you doing to strengthen and develop those relationships?

  • Personal development: Developing a plan to take care of yourself – physically, intellectually and spiritually – is not an act of selfishness. It is an act of stewardship.

  • Worship: Is worship a regular part of your life? Do you think of worship in terms of what you can get or how you can be fed or do you think of worship in terms of what you can say to and do for God?